Biden’s weakness is bringing war to South America

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The Essequibo crisis is further evidence, if the world needed it, of why dethroning Nicolas Maduro is desirable

Is war about to erupt in South America? Last week, Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro took provocative steps toward forcibly annexing Essequibo, a region comprising almost three-quarters of neighbouring Guyana. “Experts” promptly downplayed the possibility of hostilities, but they may have spoken too soon.

Maduro’s pretext is a 19th-century dispute, once thought resolved, but periodically reopened by Venezuela. The real spark, however, is his regime’s ongoing collapse, financially crippled by decades of mismanaging Venezuela’s vast oil reserves; massive regime corruption; and repression of domestic political opposition. If Guyana’s huge offshore oil deposits, discovered in 2015, continue to be developed, Venezuela’s chance to rejuvenate its own oil industry drops to near-zero. Why deal with a failed state when Guyana, eager for foreign investment, offers a seemingly uncomplicated alternative?

Joe Biden’s 2024 electoral vulnerability is also key here. Just months ago, Maduro suckered Biden into lifting economic sanctions imposed after Maduro stole Venezuela’s 2018 presidential election. Desperate to lower US petrol prices, Biden effectively betrayed Venezuela’s democratic opposition. Maduro’s promise to hold free and fair elections lasted just weeks, disappearing once sanctions were removed, proving that only mad dogs and the Biden administration negotiate with him.

Biden’s fear that international crises will raise oil prices, and the perception that the Ukraine and Middle East wars are overwhelming Washington’s bandwidth, reinforce Maduro’s conclusion that now may be an ideal moment to strike. Inadequate US responses so far underscore the absence of a deterrent sufficient to dissuade even Venezuela’s dilapidated military from using force against much-smaller Guyana.

Ironically, Washington had a key role in the 1899 arbitration award Caracas now rejects. Faced with a boundary dispute between British Guyana and Venezuela, the US advocated arbitrating the competing claims.

Secretary of State Richard Olney cited the Monroe Doctrine, brushing back UK imperial ambitions: “Today the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.” Although British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain bridled at the Monroe Doctrine’s invocation, he agreed to arbitrate, declaring Britain and America were “more closely aligned in sentiment and in interest than any other nations on the face of the earth.”

During the ensuing proceedings, two US Supreme Court justices served as arbitrators, in effect representing Venezuela’s claims. The 1899 award should have ended the controversy, but Caracas has repeatedly rejected it, not seeing the Monroe Doctrine so benignly later. The Organization of American States, however, supports the award to this day.

The current Essequibo crisis did not arise overnight. As the extent of Guyana’s offshore oil resources became apparent, Venezuela’s worries grew, and provocations began. In 2018, Venezuelan navy vessels sought to land a military helicopter on one of three Exxon-chartered oil-exploration ships, contending they were in Venezuelan waters. The vessels, in fact in Guyanese waters, moved away from the sea border, effectively ending the incident, but Venezuela’s hostile intent was clear.

To bolster his current threats, Maduro staged a December 3 “referendum”, which endorsed annexing Essequibo. This vote was as rigged, and the outcome as predetermined, as every Venezuelan election in the past 20-plus years.

Maduro ordered the arrest of opposition figures immediately thereafter, and took further steps to advance his territorial claims, such as mobilising the army. He does not need to conquer all of Essequibo to achieve his objectives. Simply seizing key coastal territories could buttress Caracas’s claims to the offshore oil deposits, while occupying inland areas could give it control of extensive deposits of gold, copper, other minerals and possibly hydrocarbons. In either case, military action would intensify the crisis, and enhance Maduro’s bargaining position.

But the Essequibo crisis also poses risks to Maduro, and further evidence, if the world needed it, of why dethroning him is desirable. His opponents should use Maduro’s belligerent behaviour to generate additional pressure on his government, domestically and internationally, thereby opening new possibilities for Venezuela’s citizens then to do the rest.

This article was first published in The Telegraph on December 13, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.

Clarifying US relations with Israel

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By Dr. David Wurmser

The United States explained the purpose of Kamala Harris’ trip this week to Dubai. Among the points were that the US will have conversations with Israel to “shape the next phase of the war” in Gaza. While this is clearly further pressure on Israel to avoid greater civilian casualties – a reasonable but unnecessary request since Israel has already gone to impossible lengths to protect Palestinian civilians — it is also suggests how the US expects to leverage the course of this war to affect post-war outcome.

There has been confusion regarding the nature of American support for Israel. It was the consensus in Israel in the first weeks that the United States under the Biden team had two common goals: remove Hamas and help Israel focus on the south and avoid a two-front war immediately. True enough. But Israelis of all stripes projected their hopes further and welcomed the impression that the US now “gets it” the same way as has been seared into Israel’s soul through the horror of October 7. Not only that Washington “switched its diskette” on Hamas, but on Palestinians, Hizballah and Iran. As such, American actions — including moving carrier battle groups and reinforcing US bases region-wide — were assumed first to be support on helping Israel survive initial attack and second to adopt a muscular, if not even threatening policy on Iran.  In essence, Israelis believed that Israel and the US were traveling along the same line, or at least two closely tracking parallel lines.

The problem is they are not.

The United States and Israel travel on intersecting and not parallel lines. The distinction is important. Parallel lines never touch, but they always run together. Intersecting lines on the other hand, converge at one point but eternally diverge afterwards. The point of convergence between the United States and Israel has now yielded to the inevitable divergence, and the strategic implications could not be graver. Moreover, the vast chasm emerging is both on the issue of Palestinians and the larger threat of Iran. 

The divergence is most evident through the increasing tone of statements coming from Washington about how to “shape” this war.  There is a tension — strategic and moral –between a war narrowly focused on defeating Hamas and extending the Palestinian Authority, and a broader strategic war to change Israeli security on every border let alone advance a regional defeat of Iran and its proxies, which remain the ultimate source of the problem.

Israel’s population has undergone a traumatic paradigm shift. It fights this war informed by a broader and grounded understanding of the region and its dynamics that unfortunately indicts policy on the region that both Jerusalem and Washington had indulged for the last thirty years. Washington, however, proceeds as if nothing has changed. It remains in paradigmatic stasis. It still labors under the delusion that the exit to all this is a combination of some sort of Oslo 2.0 and JCPOA 2.0 (Iran deal).  Hence its engagement with Abu Mazen and its cultivated restraint and lack of meaningful responses to nearly 80 attacks on US bases across the region and regional attacks by Iran’s proxies from Yemen to Iraq.

Because the US now focuses on “the day after” plans for Gaza, and because Secretary Blinken reportedly demanded that Israel not expand the geographic parameters of the war, it has essentially made support for Israel conditional — specifically as long as the goal of the war remains laser-focused on the removal of Hamas to facilitate restoring Palestinian Authority (PA) control over Gaza.  

Stripped of all the noise, essentially this is less support for Israel than support for the Palestinian Authority via Israel, while ignoring Hizballah and Iran.  The US is using this war — and all Israel’s sacrifice — to revive Oslo by making Palestine safe for Abu Mazen.

For the US, this is a war to save a paradigm in Washington. For Israel, it is a war for survival against a vast Iranian threat and Palestinian irridentism. As long as the United States fails to appreciate the war in this context, then it bodes ill about the future of Israeli American relations.

Or does it?

In my many years as a senior US official dealing with Israeli officials, it always struck me that they regard State Department corridor messages as the definitive word on US policy for Israel. Yet, Americans strongly support Israel. Congressional support is strong and growing. No President can afford to abandon Israel as long as the American people view it as a close ally fighting darkness. The belief Israel is acting fiercely to defend its independence and freedom — alone if necessary – taps into classic American imagination in popular culture as the epic hero. The irony missed often by Israelis is that the more they act in deference to the State Department, the more they damage their brand in the American public’s psyche, and the more they surrender popular support now and affinity in the long run.

The President does have a problem with progressives’ pressure to confront Israel. As long as Israel defers to American demands, it yields the field to progressives to dominate cost-free. If however, this president is forced to choose, the Democratic leadership understands that the party will lose swing districts in the 2024 Congressional elections as well as possibly the White House. Progressives cannot deliver the floating center of American politics. They have nowhere else to go; centrist liberals do.  

As such, Israeli deference is self-defeating. Israel suffers self-deterrence.

The stakes could not be higher. Israel must decisively win this war, secure its citizenry country-wide, strategically devastate Iran’s regional reputation, and establish Israel as a powerful regional actor. The viability of the state depends on it.

Israel Faces Pressure to Yield to the ‘Terrorist Veto’

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The strategic consequence of any pause, truce or cease-fire is to increase Hamas’s odds of survival.

There is a tension between Israel’s two objectives of eliminating Hamas as a political and military force and recovering the innocent civilians kidnapped on Oct. 7. Weighing these competing priorities, Israel decided to pause its anti-Hamas military campaign in exchange for the return of some hostages. This policy’s wisdom is debatable.

A greater hazard, however, imperils Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense. I call it the “terrorist veto,” and with every passing day, Israel’s chances of escaping it diminish, notwithstanding Friday’s resumption of hostilities. For many people, the not-so-hidden goal of the hostage negotiations is to focus international attention—and emotions—on pausing hostilities indefinitely and tying Israel’s hands militarily. Whether labeled a pause, truce or cease-fire, the strategic consequences are objectively pro-Hamas. Using human bargaining chips and fellow Gazans as shields, Hamas seeks to prevent Israel from eliminating its terrorist threat.

Success for Hamas means merely surviving with a limited presence in Gaza, particularly a Gaza rebuilt as it was before Oct. 7. This result is a terrorist veto, even if military-pause supporters resist this painful but accurate term.

If the Hamas veto succeeds, other barbarians such as Hezbollah and Tehran’s mullahs (the ultimate enemy here) can insulate themselves from the consequences of their terrorism. Even worse, the terrorist veto can be copied by barbaric nation-states, with victims of aggression rendered unable to vindicate their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukraine and Taiwan come to mind as potential victims of this new paradigm.

President Biden and others deny trying to block further military action, but that is precisely the effect of their policies. On Wednesday CNN said Mr. Biden’s policy rests on three pillars: releasing the hostages, stepping up aid into Gaza, and figuring out what happens after the war. No mention of eliminating Hamas. Meantime, some Democratic senators are pressing for conditions on aid to Israel to restrict its military operations, to which Mr. Biden has alluded positively.

However the arguments for prolonging the initial or subsequent pauses are made, Israel will face three potentially debilitating consequences if it ceases or limits its military campaign. First, despite strong statements by many Israelis, in government and out, the country’s resolve is weakening. Right after Oct. 7, Jerusalem perhaps was prepared to hear U.S. military advisers caution that subduing resistance in Mosul and Fallujah took between nine months and a year. Then, Israelis might have been committed to a long struggle, but it seems unlikely they still are after this initial pause. Declining Israeli resolve guarantees that Hamas won’t be eliminated.

Cease-fire advocates argue that because Israel persuaded a million Gazans to move south before its initial campaign, Gazan “civilian” casualties in further operations in the south will dwarf previous casualties. Although Hamas and Iran initially placed Gazans in harm’s way, international recrimination will unfairly fall on Israelis, further sapping their resolve.

Second, because Hamas, Iran and their allies likely gain more militarily from the pause than Israel, the human costs to Israeli’s military will rise, as will domestic opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objectives. It may be impossible to count incremental Israel Defense Forces casualties due to the pause, but the tally could exceed the number of hostages released.

Third, the greater the pauses or limitations, the more time Hamas’s surrogates worldwide have to increase anti-Israel pressure on their governments. In turn, many governments will lean on Israel to accept less, probably far less, than Mr. Netanyahu’s stated objectives.

The White House is urging, post-hostilities, turning over responsibility for Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. That utterly ignores its dismal performance in the West Bank, where the authority has been ineffective, corrupt and covertly supportive of terrorism. By some accounts Hamas is now more popular in the West Bank than Gaza. Extending Palestinian Authority control would put Israel back under the threat that surged on Oct. 7. The only long-term solution is to deny Hamas access to concentrated, hereditary refugee populations by resettling Gazans in places where they can enjoy normal lives.

Winston Churchill’s observation that “without victory, there is no survival” directly applies to Israel’s crisis. Victory for Israel means achieving its self-defense goal of eliminating Hamas. Anything less means continuing life under threat, with Tehran and its terrorist surrogates confident that when Westerners say “never again” they don’t really mean it.

This article was first published in the Wall Street Journal on December 1, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.

US should support India’s emerging global role

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Two recent, seemingly unconnected events involving India highlight its growing global role. Both were largely unreported in the United States media. One involves a combined U.S.-Indian effort to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, and the other is a murky Qatari prosecution of former Indian naval officers allegedly spying for Israel. Together, they demonstrate New Delhi’s steadily growing importance to Washington and underline why we should pay more attention to the world’s most populous country. Prospects for closer bilateral cooperation are plentiful and important, notwithstanding continuing different perspectives on key topics such as trade and relations with Russia.

Beyond doubt, India will be a pivotal player in containing China’s hegemonic aspirations along its vast Indo-Pacific perimeter. Moreover, India’s already considerable Middle Eastern role will inevitably grow. The ramifications for India from Israel’s current war to eliminate Hamas’s terrorism and constrain its Iranian puppet masters are significant, opening opportunities for both countries. But the situation also presents risks in a complex and difficult region.


Major economic news with obvious geopolitical implications came in early November when the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation announced it would loan $553 million for a deep-water container terminal project in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital and largest port. The Adani Group, one of India’s biggest industrial conglomerates, with deep expertise in port construction and management, is the project’s majority owner in this the first significant cooperative effort between India’s private sector and America’s government, one directly competitive with China.

Colombo’s port was an early target of China’s BRI, a program aimed at ensnaring developing countries in complex financial arrangements for major infrastructure projects. China ultimately took full control of its port facility, which many fear will ultimately serve military purposes.

Contesting China’s economic and influence operations across the global south, especially the BRI, must be a U.S. strategic priority. Teaming with a pathbreaking private Indian firm in the Colombo venture is a dramatic example of leveraging U.S.-Indian resources to mutual advantage. The Development Finance Corporation advances American interests by financing a major project potentially benefiting U.S. firms, and thereby vividly contrasts with China’s corrupt and ultimately subversive BRI approach. Sri Lanka also gains significantly. Since the Adani project is almost entirely private sector-owned (as opposed to BRI’s government-to-government matrix), Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt will not grow. There is no guarantee that additional projects or joint ventures with the Adani Group or other Indian firms will be easy, but the template is at least now in place.

In a separate development, Qatar arrested and charged eight former Indian naval officers (doing consulting work with Qatar’s military) as Israeli spies in August 2022. The specifics are unclear, and little was heard about the men until after Hamas’s brutal Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Declaring a dramatic shift in position, India announced support for Israel’s right to self-defense, whereupon Doha revealed on Oct. 26 that the prisoners had received death sentences. India greeted this news, tied in the public mind to its support for Israel, with outrage and dismay. Ironically, New Delhi had been trying to increase defense cooperation with Doha, and approximately 600,000 of its citizens work in Qatar (out of Qatar’s total population of about 2.5 million). India has insisted that Qatar release the men or at least commute their sentences; Qatari legal proceedings to that end are now underway.

Qatar has a lot riding on finding the right answer on the Indian prisoners, especially given the current war against Israel. Moreover, Qatar will not want to disrupt the promising initiative, announced at this year’s G20 meeting to link South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe more closely together through an “Economic Corridor.” In some ways, more is at stake here for Doha than for New Delhi. With China’s population declining, its internal socioeconomic problems growing, and its place in the world declining steadily relative to India’s, this is no time for Qatar to stay on board a sinking ship. India’s already voluminous demand for oil will only grow, while China’s will shrink as its economy slowly declines.

The Qatar-India imbroglio could figure significantly in U.S. efforts to counter the China-Russia axis (including its outliers such as North Korea, Iran, and Syria) in the Middle East and South Asia. Washington cannot by itself end tensions among the Gulf’s oil-producing Arab states, nor can it resolve all disagreements between the Gulf monarchies and the wider world. But America is hardly indifferent to regional dynamics, especially those weakening the common front against Iran’s support for international terrorism and its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Just as the Adani Group’s Colombo port project, bolstered by U.S. financial connections, is geostrategically important to counter China’s hegemonic aspirations, so is increasing greater unity among America’s Arab partners. A wider Indian role and cooperation with the U.S. globally will serve both countries’ national interests.

This article was first published in The Washington Examiner on December 1, 2023. Click here to read the original article.

Short-circuiting Iran’s Strategy in the Black Sabbath War

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By Dr. David Wurmser

The current war between Israel and Hamas is not an Israeli-Palestinian issue, nor should its goals be only the removal of Hamas from power. The Palestinian issue is certainly an aspect of the conflict.  But this is a regional strategic event. It is a major episode in the twilight struggle between Iran and Israel – indeed between the US-oriented regional bloc and the Russian-Chinese oriented bloc — and not a localized conflict between Israel and an errant terror group.

From what is emerging, Hamas did anticipate the withering, catastrophic Israeli response to what it did on October 7. But it still proceeded. While that appears to us as suicidal, it is not. Hamas appreciated that it had reached its strategic zenith in Gaza and needed to carry its center of power and the war to the West Bank and thus deems Gaza expendable – as its leadership has said since the attack. Moreover, it is equally important to understand that Hamas appreciates that its local power to achieve that transfer is derivative of the overall consequence of the strategic rise and initiative of Iran. As a suicide bomber seeks to advance its cause, or a Kamikaze squadron understands its role is to advance the nation, and not just itself, so too did Hamas understand that it had to sacrifice itself in Gaza to advance the larger strategic interests of its camp to secure ultimately victory.

And since a suicide bomber or Kamikaze squadron cannot be deterred since any calculation of self-interest is annulled, so too Hamas could not be deterred based on local calculations of interest upon which Israel’s intelligence based its estimates. The error of Israeli intelligence, thus, was that it supposed such decisions about war and calm came only from Gaza. They didn’t. They came from Tehran. Perhaps the timing was Hamas’, and there are signs it was launched prematurely, but the strategy is Tehran’s. Any discussions of Iran’s operational role in ordering this attack at this time are irrelevant. Iran built and prepared Hamas to advance the larger strategic message across the region — especially to those who were forming a regional alliance and beginning to build strategic momentum against Iran — that Israel’s stature as a viable state, let alone as a rising, regional power, is an illusion.  Israel has recovered from its initial shock and on its way to victory in Gaza. But to reclaim the region’s strategic momentum and regain the initiative for the Western-allied bloc of which it was stripped on October 7, such a victory is insufficient, and was even anticipated by Iran and Hamas, both of whom understood this strategic conflict will not be won there by either side. While Israel must not only retain its current resolve in Gaza, it must also transfer that determination to areas that represent Iran’s core strategic stature in the region. And that is Hizballah and Syria. Thus, to win not only a tactical victory against Hamas in Gaza, Israel must win a strategic victory against Iran by hitting its core proxies to the north as well. 

Iran fears that if Israel indeed accomplishes such a strategic reversal, it can reverberate and threaten the regime in Tehran. Totalitarian regimes project stability, but in truth they have little ability to absorb ideological shocks and setbacks without it rattling their ideological core and confidence. To avert disaster, Tehran thus needs to escalate its attempt to maintain the strategic initiative, at the core of which is securing the narrative that Israel is weak.

In this context, and perhaps at first seemingly contradictory, Iran’s objective is ironically to draw the US into the conflict more directly. 

Tehran remains confident that any US response will be punitive, measured and symbolic and not strategic. It has been given no reason to believe that the US has, or will, undergo the sort of paradigm shift as Israel now appears to be undergoing, and thus Washington will not abandon its attempt either to reach a regional understanding with Iran. Indeed, Iran reads every statement of warning from Washington to reassert US deterrence as an indication the United States is still playing by the rules Iran manipulates. Iran cannot deal with chaos and unpredictability, since a strategy of manipulation implies one anticipates and thus navigates to control one’s opponent’s soul and behavior. Because it believes America will not break established rules and act unpredictably – especially that America will not fundamentally shift the paradigm and will not conclude it must work to collapse, rather than come to terms with, the Iranian regime — Iran is confident it can leverage and manipulate any US reaction to its advantage. As such, Tehran feels it can safely risk limited US intervention.

Since the point of the attack on October 7 was to wound and humiliate Israel so painfully that it punctures the hope of Abraham Accord countries and Saudi Arabia that Israel can be a regional strong horse to which to attach their fortunes, then it became imperative for Iran to set the narrative that Israel is no more than a collapsing “spider web.” Iran knew images of dead and fleeing Israelis – the same images that so horrified Israelis and Westerners animated those in the region — projected Israeli weakness. It is precisely in this context, that US promises of intervening to help Israel were gleefully amplified in the Iranian press because they confirm that Israel was damaged so profoundly that it could no longer defend itself alone.

But now Israel is reunifying and threatening to go on a strategic rampage against Iran’s core proxy, Hizballah, and perhaps Syria which threatens to reverse and even obliterate the narrative of strategic momentum of a retreating/collapsing Israel and advancing Iran. And to do so alone. So Iran now must now craft a new narrative: that Israel was indeed — and remains — so weak that America must intervene actively and directly to save it. And that Americans now will have to be sacrificed to save the Jewish state in its non-viable weakness.  Namely, it needs to establish that Israel has become such a limping albatross that it is a drains the US rather than being a regional strong horse anchoring Western power.  

So important is it to Iran to establish this narrative, that they are inventing evidence to validate it. For example, Iranian government officials plant the story that a week after the visit by President Biden to Israel in mid-October, Israel transferred control over its nuclear program to the United States since Israel is collapsing and in the ensuing chaos it will either lose the nuclear asset to Iran and the Palestinians or use it. And as we have seen over the last few weeks, Iran has a substantial echo chamber in the West.

It is in this context that one must understand Nasrallah’s, Iran’s, and Hamas’ statements that they underestimated the US assistance to Israel. This is not an admission of miscalculation, but a manipulative statement. It is not genuine reflection, but an attempt to establish the fiction that the US is directly intervening because Israel remains too weak to do this alone. Through inconclusive American intervention, Iran seeks to paint a strategic narrative establishing Iran as strategically ascendent and Israel and the Abraham countries in a despairing, flailing retreat.

But for that narrative to work, they need to get America to intervene just enough to make it look like an American war, but not enough to provoke America to shift strategically. Iran’s aim is eventually to push Washington to revert to Iran to seek a regional arrangement to calm down the area — i.e., an expanded JCPOA 2.0.  

Iran is counting on the US also to split with Israel and seek to impose an Oslo 2.0 — namely to go back to Abu Mazen to rehabilitate the two-state idea and give him Gaza. Iran is right. The current administration in Washington still sees this a localized Hamas-Israel conflict and retreats into the pre-October 7 paradigm: redouble efforts to make a success the policies pursued before October 7 – a two state solution crafted around a rehabilitated Palestinian Authority. The ancient Greeks understood in their tales that those whom the gods seek to destroy, they first drive crazy by prodding the tragic figure into ill-conceived determination to redouble his same efforts while losing sight of his goals.

Iran expects that will isolate Israel, keeps Jerusalem from fully reversing the weakness of being initially wounded, perhaps even have the United States restrain Israel enough to prevent them from addressing the threat from Hizballah to the north, and through all this to thus maintain for Tehran the regional momentum of being in strategic ascendency. It correctly estimates that the United States fails at this stage still to appreciate that strong Israeli action against Iran’s regional strategic foundations in Lebanon and Syria signal that Israel fully understands it is now in a twilight struggle to seize the regional strategic momentum, and that Jerusalem will prosecute that struggle confidently and bring the war bearing down away from Israel and into Tehran itself.

But this, in fact, may be a blessing in disguise. If at the core of Iranian strategy is to portray Israel as fatally wounded and liming to its demise, saved only by US power, then having Israel – not US power – deliver a catastrophic strategic blow alone sends a critical message all in the region reasserting not only its viability, but its rising rather than eroding power.  That Israel must do this without a US green light actually strengthens the impact of this message regionally. 

But eventually, the United States will awake and realize Iran’s strategic campaign is only part of the larger sleepless malice (to pilfer from Tolkien’s The Hobbit) that stretches from Pyongyang to Caracas, passing through Beijing, Moscow, Sanaa and Algiers, which now stirs. Eventually, Washington will abandon the twin shibbolets of Oslo 2.0 and JCPOA 2.0 and shift the paradigm to focusing on helping the Iranian people bring the nightmare of their regime to its demise. Until then, it is imperative for Israel now to seize the strategic initiative regionally to deliver not only for itself, but for Washington a great victory against its better judgment.

It is a great but unavoidable burden for Israel to do this initially without an American green light. But at the same time, there is yet another irony in this situation. Israel will actually secure greater support in the long term by acting with such strength and strategic purpose regionally. Israel will eventually win great American support since it establishes Israel as the key pillar of the Western alliance in the region – which ultimately reduces the need for constant American power being projected there as it needs to refocus on Asia and Europe. Also, when Arab nations see Israel as the strong horse, they will make peace, which further secures regional acceptance and eases Arabist pressures on America.

But most importantly, Americans have always seen in Israel an image of themselves, and at the core of that brand was that Israel stood on its own legs always to defend itself by itself – just as Americans always have. For Americans, anyone that fights for what he believes in, even if he must fight alone, is someone worth fighting for and aligning oneself with. As such, a confident and self-reliantly victorious Israel will also tap again into America’s recently eroding imagination of Israel’s being a tough, independent-minded and principled nation onto which America can once again – as after 1967 and Entebbe — project its own image of itself.  

Resettlement from Gaza must be an option

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Israel is far from eliminating Hamas’s terrorist threat, but what becomes of Gaza Strip residents thereafter? One viable long-term solution that receives little attention is resettling substantial numbers of Gazans. Rejecting this idea reflexively risks dooming the Middle East to continuing terrorism and instability.

For decades after Israel’s creation, Arab states, particularly radical regimes like Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, insisted that Palestinians had been forcibly displaced. Only return to their “country of origin,” namely Israel, was acceptable. Perhaps back then people didn’t chant “from the river to the sea,” but anti-Israel Arab governments used Palestinians as political and military weapons against Israel. Allowing resettlement elsewhere meant acknowledging Israel’s permanent existence, which was then unacceptable.

Times have changed. Israel isn’t going away. Muslim governments have recognized Israel and, before October 7, more were coming. Moreover, the two-state solution is definitively dead: Israel will never recognize a “Palestine” that could become another Hamas-stan. Besides, Gaza is not a viable economic entity, and neither would a “state” consisting of Gaza and an archipelago of Palestinian dots on the West Bank be viable. Israel has made clear it rejects any “right of return” for Palestinians, and has announced it will no longer even grant work visas to Gazans seeking employment.

Western peace processors trying to create a Palestinian state under the “Gaza-Jericho first” model made a cruel mistake, the victims of which were its intended beneficiaries. The real future for Gazans is to live somewhere integrated into functioning economies. That is the only way to realize the promise of a decent life and stability for a people who have been weaponized for far too long. The sooner the Biden administration realizes it, the better.

Refugee status is not hereditary. International policy is clear that the least desirable outcome for those displaced by conflict is life in a refugee camp, which is essentially what all of Gaza is. This has been orthodoxy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees since its inception. Central to its basic mission of refugee protection and assistance is that the two legitimate outcomes are returning refugees to their home country or resettling them in countries willing to grant them asylum. UNHCR is not a permanent welfare agency.

The UN Relief and Works Agency, by contrast, is an aberration from the return-or-resettlement doctrine. For decades, UNRWA has served as the Palestinian department of health, education, welfare, housing and more; it would close up shop if resettlement became a reality. What a surprise that UNRWA does little resettlement, and functions within the UN system as a surrogate for Palestinian demands.

The answer is to abolish UNRWA, and transfer its responsibilities to UNHCR, which understands that resettlement is far better humanitarian policy than permanent refugee life. If allowed to speak for themselves rather than through Hamas’s distorted prism, Gazans would likely agree in large numbers.

Gaza’s governance after the war could be accomplished by partitioning it, perhaps along the Wadi Gaza, Israel’s dividing line for its incursion, with a UN trusteeship for Israel to the north and one for Egypt to the south. The UN Charter’s Article 77 arguably provides authority for such arrangements, since Gaza is an unsettled remainder of the League of Nations Palestinian mandate. Given legitimate Israeli and Egyptian security concerns, they could administer their respective trusteeships under Charter Articles 82 and 83, as America handled its Pacific trusteeship after World War II.

Where could Gaza’s population be resettled? Having previously weaponized Palestinians against Israel, Arab governments now see Palestinians as threatening themselves. Hence, post–October 7, Jordan and Egypt immediately declared they would not accept any Gazans into their countries. That isn’t Israel’s fault, but Israel’s plain self-interest also lies in resettlement away from Gaza. At least for now, the West Bank is a different question, unless Hamas and other terrorists have greater strength there than is immediately apparent.

Iran, Hamas’s principal benefactor, should certainly be willing to accept large numbers of people in whom it has long shown such an interest. Most other Gazans should be resettled in the regional countries that previously weaponized them. Although members of Congress have introduced legislation barring Gazan resettlement, America could grant refugee status to Gazans with a proven record of opposing Hamas, which our media reports is a large number.

Resettlement raises substantial practical questions, and would be difficult and contentious, but this is not a convincing objection — so are all the alternatives. Recreating the status quo ante October 7 is clearly impossible, totally unacceptable to Israel. Having the Palestinian Authority govern Gaza is almost as bad. Who can seriously argue that Mahmoud Abbas’s corrupt, dysfunctional regime, which barely governs the West Bank, will improve by expanding?

Resettlement may be unpalatable to many, but it needs to be on the table.

This article was first published in The Hill on November 16, 2023. Click here to read the original article.

Biden’s foolish reward for Venezuela

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Venezuela today vividly represents the collapse of effective American foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere. Receiving unfortunately little attention, President Joe Biden’s misguided, dangerous efforts to lift economic sanctions against this oppressive regime will undermine Venezuela’s democratic opposition and entrench the criminal syndicate now in power.

The United States and a solid phalanx of Latin American and European countries issued sanctions, particularly on the international sale of petroleum and related products, following Nicolas Maduro’s successful effort to steal Venezuela’s 2018 presidential elections and many other measures to suppress dissent. As foreshadowed by earlier Biden attempts to negotiate a deal, any deal, with Caracas, the White House is now effectively abandoning even the pretense of supporting the opposition coalition and toppling the heirs of Hugo Chavez.

This article was first published in The Washington Examiner on October 31, 2023.  Click Here to read the original article.

Both Parties Can Agree on America’s Nuclear Peril

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To deter threats from China and Russia, the U.S. needs to modernize and recapitalize its arsenal.

‘Unanimous” and “bipartisan” outcomes are rare in today’s Washington. “America’s Strategic Posture,” the recent report from the congressional commission on U.S. nuclear capabilities and defense strategies, merits those laurels. Led by Madelyn Creedon, a senior Clinton and Obama administration official, and former Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican, the commissioners prepared a 145-page report that warrants urgent review by anyone seeking a safe future for America.

The bottom line is that the U.S. faces “two nuclear peer adversaries for the first time” in a rapidly expanding threat environment. Maintaining and improving our nuclear-deterrence force against China and Russia will require significant effort. Since the nuclear era began, Washington’s thinking, strategizing and budgeting have assumed only one significant nuclear threat. Rogue-state capabilities weren’t insignificant, and nuclear-capable allies were a plus, but the bipolar standoff with Moscow always mattered most. With China now forming a tripolar nuclear world, bipolar deterrence calculations, strategy and nuclear hardware are simply inapposite.

Days after the paper’s release, the Pentagon published its own finding that a tripolar nuclear scenario effectively exists, well ahead of our predictions. This reality raises questions that demand strategic responses. Will the U.S. face entirely separate Chinese and Russian threats, or will Moscow and Beijing act in coordination? What do two peer nuclear foes mean for U.S. pre-emptive or second-strike capabilities? How many new targets in China—or elsewhere—must we now put at risk?

This article was first published in The Wall Street Journal on October 25, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.